Study: Federal funds support health depts., but leadership is key

Mar 09, 2010 by Amy Patterson Neubert

The surge of funds for bioterrorism preparedness over the past decade does not appear to be improving local public health resources in general, according to research from Purdue University.

However, the funding increase to health departments does spur epidemiologic activity that is key in detecting infectious disease risks, such as a surge in communicable disease like influenza or tuberculosis, at the local level, says George Avery, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology.

"Since 1999 the federal government has responded to real and perceived threats of terrorist activity and other public health emergencies by injecting a significant level of resources into developing emergency response capabilities through local and state health departments," says Avery, who worked in the Arkansas Department of Health in the 1990s. "Because of the funding influx, even though it was aimed at bioterrorism preparedness, there has been an assumption that health department programming and resources would benefit in general. We found that perceived trickle-down effect to be limited.

"On the positive side, we didn't detect any programs that were suffering because of the emphasis on preparedness and epidemiology."

Most of the funding originates from the Department of Health and Human Services, but the funds are administered by the or the Secretary of Health and Humans Services' Hospital Preparedness Program. In 2010 the CDC budget allocated $761 million to improve state and local preparedness and response to terrorism, and that exceeded the 2009 amount by $15 million.

Avery and co-author Tim Wright, senior lecturer of health education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, published their findings this month in the . The research is based on 1,798 health departments' responses to the 2005 National Association of City and County Health Officers Survey of Local Health Departments. The researchers compared sources and amounts of funding to leadership and program outcomes.

They found that leadership and the existence of directors and boards of health in the local health departments made a difference in supporting programs and activities.

"This reinforces that getting money from Washington, D.C., does not guarantee success, you still need strong, local leadership," Avery said.

The credentials and education level of health department directors also made a difference.

For example, directors with a medical degree were more likely to be associated with immunization programs, and directors with a nursing degree were connected with a number of clinical and planning activities, such as immunization activity, health assessment and health improvement planning. At the same time, environmental health, food safety and water quality programs were not as strong.

Avery said the cross-sectional design of this study only provided a snapshot of the funding and its effects. His next step is to evaluate more long-term data to determine if there are changes related to the funding.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Emergency response

Nov 12, 2007

Disasters are getting worse it seems but the federal government's preparedness has been limited to helping after a disaster has occurred. On the other hand, local organizations often do not have the resources or the training ...

IDSA: 2009 Bush budget a disaster for HIV/AIDS

Feb 04, 2008

The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2009, if enacted, would spell disaster for the nation’s health, and by extension, our national effort to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.

A need for leadership in primary care

Sep 30, 2009

Community health centers have become the centerpiece of the nation's efforts to provide access to primary care for all and therefore experience a greater need for primary care providers, who already are in short supply. According ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

17 hours ago

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

17 hours ago

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.